Why chickpeas are the best plant-based protein

Most people think of hummus or falafel when talking about chickpeas. But the protein-rich legumes are much more versatile than you may think. So, what are chickpeas good for?

Most people think of hummus or falafel when talking about chickpeas. But the protein-rich legumes are much more versatile than you may think. So, what are chickpeas good for? 


Whether you spread hummus on everything or you’re not quite sure what to do with chickpeas, the high-protein legume is a popular meat replacement in plant-based dishes. Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas have a nutty and earthy taste that pairs well with plenty of foods.  


Benefits of eating chickpeas 

It’s easy to think of chickpeas as those yellow, hard-looking balls you see at the salad bar before moving on quickly. But the plant-based protein has come a long way and is actually now a kitchen staple. 


But, are chickpeas good for you? 


Chickpeas are unprocessed, naturally gluten-free, and nutrient-dense. As a key member of the legume family, chickpeas are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plant protein. 


If you’re not quite on the chickpea bandwagon, fear not. We explore the benefits of chickpeas and look at the legume in a whole different light. 


Chickpeas are rich in plant protein

A cup (164g) of chickpeas contains about 14.5 grams of protein. The protein in chickpeas is similar to foods like lentils and black beans. As a rich source of protein, chickpeas are often the go-to choice for meatless meals and plant-based dishes. 


Chickpeas are not a complete source of protein as they don’t contain all nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are the building blocks of protein. We need to get these amino acids through our food, as the body can’t produce them. 


So, are chickpeas high in protein? 


Yes, chickpeas are an excellent source of protein. We don’t need to eat all essential amino acids with every meal. By combining legumes with foods like whole grains and vegetables, you can achieve a balanced intake of essential amino acids throughout the day. 


Research suggests that the protein in chickpeas is better quality than other legumes as chickpeas contain all but one essential amino acid, methionine. For all essential amino acids in one sitting, try pairing chickpeas with quinoa. 


They also are packed with other healthy nutrients

Chickpeas are surprisingly nutritious for coming in such a small package. One cup of chickpeas contains 269 calories, with about 67% from carbs and the rest from protein and fat. In addition to protein, chickpeas have about 4g of fiber per half cup. 


The nutrition profile for a one-cup (164g) serving of chickpeas averages out to: 


  • Calories: 269 

  • Protein:14.5g 

  • Fat: 4.25g

  • Carbohydrates: 12.8g

  • Fiber: 12.5g


The daily value or DVs are the recommended amount of nutrients we should be getting each day through our diet. If we look at the DVs of certain nutrients in chickpeas, we can see that a single serving sets you up nicely for the day. 


Here’s a breakdown of some of the key the vitamins and minerals found in chickpeas:


  • Manganese: 74% of the DV 

  • Folate (Vitamin B9): 71% of the DV

  • Copper: 64% of the DV

  • Iron: 26% of the DV

  • Zinc: 23% of the DV

  • Phosphorus: 22% of the DV

  • Magnesium: 19% of the DV

  • Thiamine: 16% of the DV

  • Vitamin B6: 13% of the DV

  • Selenium: 11% of the DV

  • Potassium: 10% of the DV


The manganese and vitamin B9 content in chickpeas is surprisingly high. These are important minerals that help us to function. Manganese supports bone health and is essential for normal brain and nerve function. Vitamin B9, or folic acid, is crucial for healthy red blood cells as well as DNA and RNA production.


They may also benefit digestion 

One of the health benefits of chickpeas is that they help support healthy digestion. 


Legumes contain soluble fiber. This means that their fiber will draw in water and turn into a gel during digestion, helping feed your friendly gut bacteria. Good bacteria in the gut may offer several health benefits like protecting against obesity


A small study found that just two weeks of increasing fiber intake changed the gut microbiome. Consuming dietary fiber encourages healthy bacteria to grow in the gut. Low-fiber “Western” diets are associated with a higher rate of conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and diabetes. 


Although eating plenty of fiber is associated with lots of health benefits, it’s thought that about 95% of American adults and children don’t eat enough fiber. 


We know that talking about bowel movements isn’t always the most exciting topic. But research suggests that chickpeas may support your digestive system by making bowel movements easier and increasing frequency. 


Regular bowel movements are important for health because they help us rid toxins from the body and ease bloating. Eating plenty of fiber is a key component of regulating bowel movements and maintaining a healthy gut. 


It’s not just chickpeas that help you to up your fiber. For more ideas on increasing the fiber in your diet, check out our guide on how to eat more fiber


They are affordable and easy to find

Sometimes it feels like you need to take out a loan when you head to a health shop for a specialist set of ingredients. With chickpeas, this really isn’t the case. You can find chickpeas in most grocery stores. They are affordable, especially compared to animal sources of protein like meat and fish. 


Typically, you can buy chickpeas in the canned aisle as well. If, like us, you develop a complete love of chickpeas, you can also buy them in bulk at some health food stores. 


They're easy to prepare and integrate into your diet

Chickpeas are versatile and easy to use in a number of different dishes. They are great in salads, soups, pasta, or stuffed into sandwiches. 


Chickpeas are often a go-to meat replacement too. You can roast chickpeas, have them cold in a salad, or add them to a curry. Because chickpeas are versatile, it’s an easy way to add a protein burst to meals without it being overly complicated. You can also use chickpea flour in pastries or swirl it into a salad as a nutritious topping. 


How to cook with plant-based proteins

If you’re looking to include more plant foods in your diet, cooking with plant-based proteins is slightly different. 


Typically, you don’t need to cook plant-based proteins for as long as animal-based proteins. So, you can whip together a weeknight bean chili quickly, as you don’t need to saute it the way you would raw ground beef. 


The flavor is different too. A lot of plant-based proteins tend to absorb the flavor around them. This is what makes foods like tofu and tempeh such great flavor carriers. Adding mushrooms, soy sauce, or other rich ingredients really ups the flavor. 


Like most foods, protein content can vary massively in plant-based sources. We look at some common plant-based protein sources and simple ways you can add more plant foods to your diet. 


Don’t worry; you won’t find any lengthy recipes here. 


Try dipping into the world of chickpeas with this easy chickpeasy recipe. We love the combination of Mediterranean-inspired flavors. The protein content makes it ideal for a post-workout recovery meal. It also tastes delicious, if we do say so ourselves. 


Other high-protein plant based foods

No matter what diet you follow, plant foods are an excellent source of protein. They can also help cut down on animal proteins if you’re trying to incorporate more plant foods into your meals. 


Other pulses

Pulses are low-fat, affordable, and high in protein. A pulse is an edible seed from a legume plant and includes: 


  • Lentils (puy, green, yellow, brown, and red): 9g of protein per 100g 

  • Beans (kidney, white, pinto, butter, black, edamame, and cannellini): 7-10g of protein per 100g

  • Baked beans: 6g of protein per 100g (be careful with the salt content) 

  • Garden peas: 5g of protein per 100g 



 Quinoa is the seed of the Chenopodium quinoa plant. You can buy it in a few different varieties like red, white, or black. Most people use quinoa the same way they use any grain, like rice.


It’s a nutrition powerhouse and complete protein source with almost 4g of protein per 100g. Quinoa is a good alternative for couscous or rice. Try it in a salad, Buddha bowls, or even in soups and stews.


Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds can give any meal a protein and nutrition boost. What’s great about them is that you only need small amounts to get the benefits. A tablespoon here and there over a salad or in your breakfast smoothies packs an impressively powerful punch. 


Here’s a breakdown of some of our favorite nut and seed proteins: 


  • Hemp seeds: 5g of protein per tablespoon 

  • Pumpkin seeds: 4g of protein per tablespoon 

  • Sunflower seeds: 2g of protein per tablespoon  

  • Sesame seeds: 1.6g of protein per tablespoon  

  • Almonds: 6g of protein per 30g-serving  

  • Walnuts: 3g of protein per three walnuts 

  • Brazil nuts: just over 2g of protein per three Brazil nuts 

  • Cashew nuts:  5.2g of protein per 28g-serving 


Nut butter, like peanut butter or almond butter, is a super easy and quick source of plant protein. Make sure to look for nut butter that uses 100% nuts with no added oils, sugars, or salts. A tablespoon of smooth peanut butter has just over 3g of protein. 


Chia seeds

Naturally, chia seeds deserve their own section. The little but mighty seed contains almost 2g of protein per tablespoon. Chia seeds are versatile and can add a lovely crunch to breakfast and salads. 


When you add water to chia seeds, they expand. This makes them an ideal egg replacement in vegan cooking. Try leaving them to soak in water for twenty minutes, and you’ll be ready to go.



It’s easy to write off vegetables as a protein source, but they offer a decent amount of protein. 


Some of the vegetables with the highest protein include: 


  • Broccoli: 3g of protein per 1 cup 

  • Spinach: 2g of protein per 80g serving 

  • Asparagus: just over 2g of protein per 100g 

  • Kale: 4.3g of protein per 100g 

  • Brussel sprouts: 3g of protein per 1 cup  

  • Artichokes: 3.5g of protein per cooked whole artichoke

  • Avocado:  1g of protein per 50g serving 


As a growing kitchen staple, we understand why chickpeas are the best plant-based protein, and why we will be buying them in bulk. With chickpeas, it’s fun to experiment with lots of different flavors and dishes. Anyone can start using chickpeas as a fuss-free way to incorporate more plant-rich foods into their diet. Whether it’s a clean-out-the-fridge stew or your go-to salad, try adding chickpeas for a boost of plant protein. 



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